The distinctiveness of the word-length effect

Charles Hulme, Ian Neath, George Stuart, Lisa Shostak, Aimée M. Surprenant, Gordon D.A. Brown

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The authors report 2 experiments that compare the serial recall of pure lists of long words, pure lists of short words, and lists of long or short words containing just a single isolated word of a different length. In both experiments for pure lists, there was a substantial recall advantage for short words; the isolated words were recalled better than other words in the same list, and there was a reverse word-length effect: Isolated long words were recalled better than isolated short words. These results contradict models that seek to explain the word-length effect in terms of list-based accounts of rehearsal speed or in terms of item-based effects (such as difficulty of assembling items).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)586-594
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Learning Memory and Cognition
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - May 2006
Externally publishedYes


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